Before the Carrboro Farmers’ Market opened in 1977 and way before “farm to fork” dining was taken for granted here, fresh local veggies were not so easy to come by. Back in the day, our best source was Fowler’s Food Store, a stone’s throw from the more pedestrian A&P downtown on Franklin Street. Fowler’s offered an admirable selection of produce (along with superior meats, exotic beers and shockingly unfamiliar canned goods such as escargots).
During the growing season, a couple of farm stands appeared one day each week. The original Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market set up behind Brady’s Restaurant where The Siena Hotel now stands; the other, in back of the current Pantana Bob’s on East Rosemary. These pop-up markets offered typical Southern staples – yellow squash, green beans, shell peas, okra, tomatoes and cucumbers.
Julia Child’s revolutionary TV show and a young generation of innovative chefs created a demand for cooking and eating outside the traditional Southern box. Suddenly there was a demand for more unfamiliar produce: leeks, artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, raspberries, tiny new potatoes, fresh herbs and edible flowers.
Enter Tom Jackson, a former English professor descended from generations of Sampson County tobacco farmers. By this time, the N.C. tobacco industry was on the decline and, along with most tobacco farmers in the area, Tom’s father was struggling to survive. Tom, aware of Triangle chefs’ craving for more varied produce, introduced the idea of replanting the old tobacco fields to supply quality produce-oriented restaurants.
Under Tom’s guidance, Sampson County farmers began meeting the demand. Every week Tom made the rounds between Nana’s, Four Square, The Carolina Inn, La Residence and Crook’s Corner delivering his and his neighbors’ produce and taking orders for next week’s seasonal specials.
Three decades later, Tom and his wife, Jan, a potter and accomplished cook, still live on the 200-year-old family farm where Jan maintains a potting studio.
Tucked into the woods on the edge of their pastoral paradise is an old two-bedroom guest house, lovingly restored with a screen porch overlooking a small lake. The verdant Sampson County farmland feels like another universe, peaceful and unchanging. The hospitable Jacksons rent out their enchanting guesthouse – the perfect place to commune with nature, meditate, hang out with old friends or a new love… or to write a cooking column.
For more information about the Jackson Farm Guest House, go to jacksonfarm.com
Jan Jackson’s Zucchini Pie
3 large eggs
1⁄2 cup olive oil
1 cup Bisquick
4 cups diced zucchini
1 chopped onion, preferably Vidalia
1-2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon fresh marjoram or oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-4 teaspoons chopped parsley (optional)
Whisk together the eggs and oil until well blended. Mix in Bisquick, then add the remaining ingredients and pour into a buttered 10- x 6-inch or 8- x 8-inch pan. Bake 35 minutes at 350 F or until golden brown.
Variations: Add diced ham, cooked bacon pieces or other suitably flavored diced meat or shrimp, Swiss or mozzarella cheese.